NEWS

Olympic venues ‘badly planned’

A lack of proper planning and foresight has resulted in many of the expensive sport venues built for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games sitting idle, officials admitted yesterday at a seminar organized by the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE). «Unfortunately, in Athens we were very late in planning for the post-Olympic period,» Spyros Kapralos, the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, told the seminar, which also assessed the fate of sports venues in other Olympic cities, including Beijing, Sydney and Barcelona. Even a senior Foreign Ministry official conceded that authorities went over the top. «We built large permanent venues without it being demanded of us… as a result, many of these venues are now abandoned or damaged,» said Theodoros Skylakakis, the ministry’s general secretary for international economic relations and development cooperation. Athens Prefect Yiannis Sgouros, who also attended, remarked that venues built for the Athens Olympics for some 2.2 billion euros «are not reminiscent of the Games in any way.» «Very few venues are open to the public; most are being used for commercial gain or for entertainment, but hardly any for sports,» he said. Dionysis Stamenitis, the new president of Olympic Properties, a state company set up to manage the venues, said he «did not agree with accusations of abandonment.» He said, «Of the 22 sports venues, seven have been turned over to private firms for commerce, leisure or sports, 10 have been given to associations and municipalities to be used chiefly for sports, and five have gone to the state.» The problem is that many of these venues still remain closed due to procedural hiccups. In some cases, such as that of the Beach Volleyball Center in Neo Faliron, red tape has hindered the issuing of licenses. There have also been legal challenges by local groups that have stalled plans to overhaul some venues, such as the Olympic halls in Galatsi and Ano Liosia.